I grew angry and then I cried for my friend Lucia McBath—Jordan’s mother. I assume that I was among many who did the same. When I learned of the non-verdict in the Michael Dunn murder trial, I wondered what it would take to get justice for Jordan Davis’ murder and for all the other Black people who lost their lives to senseless violence—not just in Florida, but throughout the United States.
Like millions of Americans, I waited anxiously for the jury to return a verdict. The more commentators talked, the more I became concerned about the signals sent by the length of the jury’s deliberation that turned out to be about the same length as the trial’s evidentiary phase of five days.
That Michael Dunn took the life of Jordan Davis was unquestioned. The only thing the jury had to decide was whether Dunn was justified in firing ten shots into an SUV holding four teenaged Black males not bothering him. Although they ruled that Dunn was guilty of three counts of attempted murder, at least one juror decided the presence of four young Black men and the non-existent barrel of a gun was reasonable to create the fear of threat of harm in the mind of Dunn.
A question now looms large in the cases of Trayvon Martin AND Jordan Davis. That’s whether the time will ever come when the lives of Black Americans will be held in comparable value to those of white Americans.
Some of us thought that Black parents and caretakers would be past the point of admonishing their children to shrink their personages to the point that, while in public, they become ultra meek or non-descript. After years of protecting our young men by imposing expressive reticence and control so as not to offend some hostile white person, one would have thought that our young men would have finally gained the right of protecting their personal autonomy with their words instead of their fists.
Despite our hopes and, in the cases of Jordan and Trayvon, effective parenting, two men were arbitrarily allowed to decide that these young men were no longer worthy of life. Their legal protests to the contrary, the documented mindset of two killers – Dunn and Zimmerman - and their resultant actions took the lives and destroyed any potential of two young Black men. The “Stand Your Ground” Law was merely a vehicle for the exercise of their malicious intent.
This non-verdict was an extension of the type of veiled disregard that impacts the lives of Black people every day. It can be said that Jordan and Trayvon’s lives were not considered with the same value as someone white. Zimmerman got off totally free. One can argue that the time Dunn will serve for the criminal acts of which he was found guilty is, in effect, a life sentence. Unfortunately, the failure of the jury to reach a verdict in the murder of Jordan, and the unreasonable verdict reached in the case of Trayvon, sends the subliminal signal that, by their nature, Black males pose an inherent threat, and reduces the responsibility for anyone confronting them to consider their humanity.
It’s human to initially retreat from threat. Instead, “Stand Your Ground” allows those so disposed to revert to acts of barbarism. These horrendous laws must be changed if we’re to continue to call ourselves a civilized nation.
Let us pray that Jordan’s parents will soon know that justice has been served for the senseless murder of their son. No matter how long Dunn serves in prison, if there is no time served for Jordan’s murder, the message rings clear that there’s no such thing as equal justice in “Stand Your Ground” states.
(Dr. E. Faye Williams is National Chair of the National Congress of Black Women, 202/678-6788, www.nationalcongressbw.org)